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Last Updated: Monday, 19 May, 2003, 11:11 GMT 12:11 UK
Call for end to tests at seven
boy with test paper
Tests for seven year olds are creating undue pressure, staff say
Head teachers have joined together to campaign for the abolition of compulsory testing of seven year olds in England.

The Primary Education Alliance claims Key Stage One Standard Assessment Tests (Sats) put pupils under undue pressure, rendering them "disillusioned, demotivated and disaffected".

Schools should be able to carry out their own assessments in partnership with parents, instead of continuing with tests set by central Government, it insists.

The group launched its campaign at Mount Pleasant Primary School, Quarry Bank, Dudley, West Midlands.

'Results at plateau'

The school's head teacher, Gail Bedford, said: "Each child should have time to explore the learning experiences offered, identifying and building on his or her individual strengths and enabling the creative spark that is in each one of them to ignite."

Barry Dawson, of the National Primary Heads Association - one of the groups in the alliance - said: "We're not against the principle of assessment, but there's evidence on Sats to suggest results have reached a plateau and are even beginning to fall."

Many teachers have complained that Sats for seven year olds have placed unreasonable pressure on staff and pupils.

They say performance targets are damaging the breadth of the curriculum and are creating an over-centralised system.

The National Union of Teachers has voted to ballot its members over whether to boycott Sats for seven, 11 and 14 year olds.

General secretary Doug McAvoy said: "It is absurd that England should continue with tests for seven year olds when in Wales their abolition has raised morale in schools and shown that the Welsh government trusts teachers.

"England is the only country which has such arrangements. Sooner or later the government will have to recognise the irresistible ground swell against the tests and return to schools assessment which supports rather than undermines learning."

Last week, the Education Secretary, Charles Clarke, said the government would not scrap tests for seven year olds, but hinted at an easing of targets.

He told BBC Breakfast: "At seven, there is a role for more teacher assessment in the process.

"We are not getting rid of them, but we are open to looking at ways of making the tests less stressful than they appear to be."

A Department for Education and Skills spokeswoman said: "Testing is essential to tailor teaching for each child in a class."

She added: "We are happy to engage in a debate about content and process but testing is central to raise standards.

"It is certainly appropriate for seven year olds, as it is for 11 and 14 year olds too."

The BBC's Sue Littlemore
"The government firmly believe testing has raised standards"

Clarke signals move on Sats tests
15 May 03  |  Education
Heads say 'sick' tests are a crime
05 May 03  |  Education
Negative response to school tests
24 Feb 03  |  Education
Teachers vote to boycott tests
20 Apr 03  |  Education
Tests 'damaging teacher care'
19 Apr 03  |  Education
'Too much, too young' for children
16 Apr 03  |  Education

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